Who is Jesus Christ? (Debate)
Dr. James White and Yusuf Ismail debate the Christology of the Gospel of John, and then the Christology of the Qur'an, in an historic debate in the famous Grey Street Mosque in Durban, South Africa (the home mosque of the late Ahmed Deedat).
For whom did Christ die?
Dr. James White v. Dr. Michael Brown
In reflecting on this "debate" Dr. White wrote:
First, I am somewhat uncomfortable with the term “debate” in this instance, for a number of reasons. This might be one of those times where “discussion” is really the better term. The actual interaction time was limited, only about 53 minutes total, after which time our discussion was driven by the audience in the main. And though we both attempted to be as brief and concise as possible, still, without specific time controls, complete equality was not possible to obtain. And particularly in the second discussion we (I think quite properly) had more actual personal interaction on a pastoral level.
Whatever term we choose to describe the discussions, they were most certainly unusual for most of Christian television anywhere in the world, and in Europe in particular. While there may be lots of panel discussions recorded for broadcast, this kind of open and honest disagreement based upon the highest view of Scripture and inspiration, by two participants, both of whom have studied the biblical languages (Michael being the expert in Hebrew, and I having the advantage in Greek), is certainly not your normal fare on what is called Christian television. On that level alone I am very pleased that these programs will be available for viewing for at least the foreseeable future.
This is not the first time Michael and I have demonstrated that you can disagree strongly and still do so respectfully...
Regarding the Atonement Discussion
I did all I could to start the debate on the right foot, which is hard to do in less than five minutes. But I focused upon what must be the heart of any such discussion: the vital relationship between the extent of the atonement and the divine intention of the atonement. This element, together with 1) the covenantal nature of the death of Christ as the very ground and source of the New Covenant and, 2) the intimate, necessary, and glorious nature of Christ’s high priestly role and hence the connection of atonement and intercession, formed the heart of my argument. I believe a fair analysis of the encounter would confirm that these arguments were not undercut by anything Michael offered. Instead, it was plain to me that his opening arguments were based not on the provision of a biblical doctrine of atonement, but upon a general denial of particularity in salvation itself. He focused far more upon emphasizing “all” passages than upon providing any kind of positive doctrine of intentionality or accomplishment in atonement. This was not a failure on Michael’s part, it is the nature of non- Reformed soteriology in general. It simply does not go deeply into the biblical revelation at this point, for the deepest most illuminating texts on this topic (Romans 8, the Hebrews chapters) are all connected to sovereignty, election, priesthood and intercession. This is why Michael was forced (and this, to me, was the deciding moment in the debate) to divide, conceptually and practically, the atoning work of the High Priest and the intercessory work. So, Christ dies for every individual, even for those already under God’s judgment, but Michael sees how impossible it is to keep that priestly work unified, so he denied that Christ is interceding for those who are already under judgment. Now if he could just follow that thought to its conclusion and see the power of it! Instead, he seemed to wish to deny the fact that even in Israel you had the physical offspring of Abraham and the spiritual offspring of Abraham, and that it is the remnant (λεῖμμα), those who are of faith, who were in view in the sacrifices and the priestly ministrations. So he wished to insist that the sacrifice of atonement on the day of atonemente was for all of Israel, and hence potential in nature. I disputed this on a few accounts, but time did not allow an in-depth discussion.
I would simply point out that 1) the offering in Leviticus 16 is limited to the covenant people of God; it did not make atonement for the Egyptians or Moabites or Assyrians. It was, by nature, covenantal and hence “limited”;
2) there is good ground for arguing for a limitation even within the Old Covenant context based upon the obedience and faith of the remnant of Israel (many bore in their bodies the covenant sign but were not of the remnant as they were not of faith); but most importantly
3) the New Testament text makes the limitation explicit in the phrase τους προσερχομενους δι αυτου τω θεω, those drawing near to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). In any case, the powerful argument based upon Christ’s high priestly ministry, together with the inarguable fact that the ones for whom the sacrifice is offered and the ones for whom the High Priest intercedes are identical, was clearly presented and defended. I truly wonder how many who heard that program heard about these wondrous truths for the first time? What a privilege to have the opportunity to proclaim them!
Of course, if someone in the audience does not remain focused upon the topic, they may well be distracted by the other issues raised, especially by the audience interaction. Texts such as 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 4:10, etc., which I have discussed in depth in my published works, again show that the primary objection to particular redemption is found in a rejection of particularity as a whole, i.e., in objections to election. I can only hope that those who found those objections weighty will take the time to dig into the interactions Michael and I had previously on those topics.
Here then is Part 1:
Part 2: Questions and Answers
Those things that ARE Revealed
While we wholeheartedly affirm that there are indeed many mysteries about God we were not meant to understand this side of eternity, and perhaps will never fully comprehend. But the Bible declares that those things that ARE revealed WERE MEANT for us and our children (Deut. 29:29). In other words, if Jesus talked about something and He put it in Scripture, He meant that we should hear it, talk about it, think about it, form our understanding with regard to it, preach about it, apply it, and obey it on THIS side of eternity. The refusal to want to take the time to learn more about Jesus in the Text is really so much of what is wrong with Christianity today. Certain evangelicals appear to have no interest in applying themselves to Scripture and would rather believe in a generic Jesus who we form in our own image.
I would much prefer to have a heated but irenic debate with a theological opponent than to hear someone say, "we should just love Jesus and forget about the rest", as if you could love a Jesus whom you don't really know. Which Jesus should we love?
"there is no objective truth or morality that we should all believe or live by"
Comment: "there is no objective truth or morality that we should all believe or live by."
Response: ...Your declaration that "there is no objective truth or morality that we should all believe or live by" is an absolute statement about the way we should all believe or live.
In other words, you are appealing to an absolute truth in order to prove that relativism is true -- which would indicate that your core presupposition about the nature of reality is self-contradictory. If something is contradictory then it means there is something flawed or missing about the argument itself and, if you are honest, should take you back to the drawing board. Even the statement "if does not matter what people believe" would be a declaration that you know with objective certainty that what people believe does not matter. You could not possibly know the truth of this statement without objective knowledge that this is true. No relativist lives consistently within the framework of his own presuppositions. In other words, objectivity is inescapably part of this world we live in and makes the most sense of it, and relativism is demonstrated to be incoherent.
Note: When relativists inconsistently appeal to such things as universal human rights, as they often do, (i.e. objective morality that all peoples OUGHT to abide by) they bare witness to the reality of the image of God in them even though they may otherwise suppress this idea and/or appear to remain uncommitted about it.
Debating Predestination, Election and the Will of God
Dr. Michael L. Brown vs. Dr. James White at Southern Evangelical Seminary, February 14, 2013.
Everyone Believes the Atonement is Limited
Since all are not redeemed in the end, even Arminians believe the atonement is limited. Both Reformed and non-Reformed believe that only some of the ill-deserving persons on earth will partake of the benefits of Christ's redemption. Both Reformed and non-Reformed declare that the benefits of Christ's atonement are available to all who believe. The difference is that particular redemption is saying that the redemptive benefits of the atonement will only be applied to that portion which is God's choosing from the mass of ill-deserving persons on the earth. Arminians, on the other hand, believe that the atonement will be applied only to those ill-deserving persons of man's own choosing. But again, what benefit is the atonement to those who are not saved? None which are redemptive. Christ knew before the world existed who would never benefit so it would be contradictory to say he died for all with some kind of hope that the future would be otherwise.
A Synergist Mistakenly says 'Amen' to Spurgeon
Is the Spirit's work of irresistible grace (John 6:63, 65, 37) a matter of forcing someone to believe? And must love be freely chosen to be genuine? This related Spurgeon quote comes from his sermon entitled "Human Inability" with an interesting short discussion with an Arminian which follows...
Spurgeon once said, "Oh!" saith the Arminian, "men may be saved if they will." We reply, "My dear sir, we all believe that; but it is just the if they will that is the difficulty. We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it--"Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life;' and as long as that "ye will not come' stands on record in Holy Scripture, we shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will." It is strange how people, when talking about free-will, talk of things which they do not at all understand. "Now," says one, "I believe men can be saved if they will." My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ. You reply, that men sometimes are willing, without the help of the Holy Spirit. I answer--Did you ever meet with any person who was? Scores and hundreds, nay, thousands of Christians have I conversed with, of different opinions, young and old, but it has never been my lot to meet with one who could affirm that he came to Christ of himself, without being drawn. The universal confession of all true believers is this--"I know that unless Jesus Christ had sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God, I would to this very hour have been wandering far from him, at a distance from him, and loving that distance well." With common consent, all believers affirm the truth, that men will not come to Christ till the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them.
Visitor: arminians say amen to this.
Response: Not exactly... while Arminians do believe in the necessity prevenient grace, but they would reject Spurgeon's calling the Holy Spirit's influence "irresistible" ... meaning they would reject that Christ provided EVERYTHING we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe. Arminians as well as all synergists affirm that the saving work of the Spirit is ultimately resistible or ineffectual and that faith springs as a choice generated from our unregenerated human nature. But Christ says "the Spirit quickens and the flesh counts for nothing" (John 6:63). That means our flesh or unregenerate nature does not and cannot have faith.. Only as God grants it do we have faith (John 6:65) and ALL TO WHOM HE GRANTS HAVE IT (John 6:37)
Visitor: Sorry, I missed the irresistible word- Of course you are right regarding Arminians, we believe that God will not force a person to believe. Even though His desire is that all men should repent He will not force them. Thank you for pointing this out.
Response: If a toddler disobeyed and ran out into the street into oncoming traffic, which parent shows love to their child? The one who stands at the edge and calls out for their child to get out of the way and does nothing more? ( i.e. requires them to meet a condition or else they would not lift another finger to help?) Or the parent who, regardless of what the child wants at the moment, runs out into the street at the risk of his own life, scoops up the child and makes certain their child is safe?
In every day life we consider the first parent selfish and the second to be showing love. Yet the second parent could be accused of forcing the child. How is it love then? BECAUSE we understand that parents know better than their children what is good for them.
So in the end, the Arminian conception of only loving if one meets a condition is really not love at all. What kind of parent would force a child to meet a condition before he would help him save his life. How much more God? So the arminian idea of love is simply bunk. Not only is it unbiblical, but in every day life we would never think of love in such terms.
When God gave you physical life, was he forcing you to be born? He gave you eyes to see, ears to hear? Given your logic giving you physical birth, a body, eyes, ears and the like would also be force and therefore unloving. You see, such a view like yours, makes no sense at all. When God gives us NEW eyes to I do not believe it would be accurate to call this force, it is mercy.
Libertarian Freedom and God
As you know, those who believe in "libertarian free will" declare the ability to choose otherwise...
Given that God is absolutely holy and without sin by His very nature, it would actually be heretical to declare that God has libertarian free will ... for it would mean that He would have the "freedom" to do otherwise ... i.e. to be unholy, if He so chose to be.
However, the Bible defines freedom relative to sin (See John 8)... so God being absolutely holy makes Him the most free. This is great evidence that libertarian free will is a philosophical construct and not based on biblical presuppositions of freedom.
Does Muhammad's Name Appear in Song of Solomon 5:16?
Are you aware that the Qur'an claims (in Surah 61:6 and Surah 7:157) that the Bible refers to Muhammad? In fact, this idea was a central feature of Muhammad's understanding of his own identity as a prophet.
At his blog at www.aomin.org, Dr. James White writes, "Does Muhammad's Name Appear in Song of Solomon 5:16? The answer, of course, is "no." But how would you respond to the bright-eyed, confident, convinced Islamic college student who told you that surely Muhammad's name does appear in the Bible, and the renowned Bible scholar Ahmed Deedat had proven it to be so? Dr. Bassim Gorial gave me permission to post material from my last appearance in the Jesus or Muhammad Marathon on ABN (www.abnsat.com), for which I am very grateful. Included in this video is a Muslim caller who, well, changed her mind halfway through the call."
How Can Regeneration Precede Faith in Light of Eph 1:13?
If regeneration precedes faith, how can we explain Ephesians 1:13? This verse lists hearing, believing and sealing with the Holy Spirit in that order. If being sealed with the Holy Spirit is the same thing as being indwelled by the Holy Spirit, or if this happens when the heart is changed (ie., with regeneration, as per Ezekiel 36:26-27), doesn't that mean that regeneration follows belief rather than precedes it?
Paul's main point of the first 12 verses in Ephesians is to show that all spiritual blessings we have are because of the sovereign grace of Jesus Christ ALONE, in Whom we are predestined and adopted as sons, thereby making the Spirit's work of grace, by definition, causally prior to our faith. But, if this were not enough, Jesus himself explicitly teaches that regeneration precedes faith in John 6:63-65 & 37. Take the time to meditate on that passage in context. Are you suggesting that Paul is teaching in Ephesians 1:13 that a person can come to faith in Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit? That he can simply rely on his own native resources apart from grace? That the spiritually blind do not need their eyes opened, that the deaf do not need their ears unplugged, that the hard-hearted can make their own heart of stone into a heart of flesh, without God's help? In other words, specifically related to you question about Eph 1:13, are you suggesting that because the Spirit comes to indwell the believer after he believes and is justified, that the Spirit does not also work in people prior to this? That the Spirit is dormant and is waiting for a graceless person to believe first? The Biblical evidence is so overwhelming that the Spirit also works prior to belief that this should not even be a debate in the church. The believer hears only because the Holy Spirit opens his ears. The sinner believes only because the Spirit has worked faith in Him. They "are born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13). That which is born of flesh is flesh, but that which is born of Spirit is Spirit (John 3:7). "The Spirit gives life the flesh counts for nothing." (6:65). The "flesh"means the person without the Spirit who can neither know nor understand spiritual truth, and faith, therefore is not born of man's will.
Why do you "thank" God for your conversion? It is because the Bible gives witness that God was entirely responsible for it. You thank God because you know your repenting and believing cannot be ascribed to your own wisdom, sound judgment, or good sense. Jesus Christ gets ALL the glory. Even the very humility you have to believe is a gift of grace, for what do you have that you did not receive.. Or would you rather tell God that you thank him for everything else, but that your faith is something you came up with on your own??? Jesus Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith. Why do some believe and not others? What makes us to differ? Jesus or something else?
Question About the Validity of Arguing for Paedo-Baptism from Colossians 2
Question from a Baptist friend considering arguments for Reformed paedo-baptism:
"Where I am struggling is that, aside from Col. 2, there does not seem to be any connection between circumcision & baptism. Col. 2 seems to be talking about spiritual circumcision (which was in th Old Covenant and happened only to the elect) and spiritual baptism (raised through faith in the powerful working of God). Such a baptism is effectual through the gift of faith.
The pattern that I see in Redemptive History is that our parameters for 'spiritualizing' a shadow, sign, or type is the scriptures in precept or principle. I definitely see linking 'spiritual circumcision' with 'spiritual baptism', but does that give us license to do the same with their physical counterparts? If so, then it would stand to reason that such must happen to only the males at eight days and to avoid such would result in removal from the covenant which it signifies. The argument is proposed that there is no male or female in Christ, but that is in clear reference to salvation..."
I think you're underestimating the importance of the link between baptism and circumcision in Col. 2, and unnaturally divorcing the sign from the thing signified in both circumcision and baptism. God has always chosen to seal and signify his covenant realities with physical signs, and it is dangerous and presumptuous for us to think that we may assure ourselves of the realities signified while spurning the signs which God has condescended to provide us with as seals of the grace he freely gives. How can we know that we are possessors of spiritual baptism, by which we are united to Christ? Only by this, that we have gone through physical baptism, and our hearts are firm in faith that what God has promised to us and solemnly testified to in that sign he has been faithful actually to give. It is reckless and arrogant to say that we are spiritually baptized when we have never been physically baptized.
Establishing One's Own Righteousness
Brothers, my heartâ€™s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to Godâ€™s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
Christ alone is sufficient to save us to the uttermost. Righteousness is found in Him, and no where else. Not Christ "plus" the addition of something I contribute to the price of my redemption. Any addition to Christ is essentially an affirmation that Christ is not enough.
As Paul noted in the above quote, there are many people who do not know Christ yet are zealous to daily read their Bible, take the Eucharist and do good works, all good things in themselves, but not if they are not grounded in the gospel. They are trusting in these things to get them to where they want to go rather than in Christ alone. On Friday I encountered a very devout Roman Catholic who came into our office looking for books (not knowing the content of our books). She was extremely zealous and sincerely devoted to "Jesus" and the "Trinity" and to daily prayer. She asked what Monergism meant and became deeply upset about the implications of "Christ alone" and "Scripture alone" saying that her faith was much bigger than that. I asked, "bigger than Christ"? It was frankly gut-wrenching to stand there and explain that our differences were more than just secondary. But in the end I had to be open and tell her that while indeed Rome believes that Jesus is necessary, yet they do not believe He is sufficient, and therefore are opposed to the true gospel. The Roman Catholic Church essentially believes that Jesus takes our account to zero but then we need to complete where Christ is lacking in righteousness by adding our own merit to His. The doctrine of Purgatory attests to the fact that they do not believe Jesus Christ is enough to save them - but that they must contribute something to it. This clearly runs into the same violation that Paul warns of in Galatians: "Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?' (Gal 3:3).
Note: An interesting turn in the discussion, which I think worth mentioning, is the RCC who came by our office used the common liberal progressive argument that I was being "exclusionary" and not "inclusive" and so my heart was hardened. However, I pointed out the fact that this actually goes both ways. RCC likewise denies what I believe to be true so it is being no less inclusive. As long as I did not believe in Christianity the way she did I was being exclusive. Ironic. People forget very quickly that the Council of Trent anathematizes the gospel of Jesus Christ that we hold true. This inclusion/exclusion argument is really a form of self-deception by those who use it because it does not see itself rightly, that in the very act of speaking against exclusion, it is being exclusive.
Please pray that the many zealous people out there we meet daily (like the person in my encounter) would see they are trusting in their own righteousness and that God would graciously move by His Spirit upon them to turn their heart of stone to a heart of flesh so they would submit to Godâ€™s righteousness, found in Jesus Christ alone.
The Doctrines of Grace - Video Seminar - Dr. James White
Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism by John Girardeau
DURING the temporary occupation of the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in this city, a few years ago, some of the young members of that church requested me to instruct a Bible-class, on Sabbath nights, in the distinctive doctrines of the Calvinistic faith. A large number were enrolled, and the understanding was that the members of the class would be entitled to a free interrogation of the instructor. Unexpectedly, from the very first, a large promiscuous congregation attended, and the liberty to ask questions was used by outsiders, the design appearing to be to start difficulties rather than to seek light, and to convert the exercise into a debate. To avoid this result, and to treat objections in a more logical and orderly manner than was possible in extemporized replies to the scattering fire of miscellaneous inquiries, resort ere-long was had to written lectures. Notwithstanding this change, the attendance and the interest suffered no abatement, but rather increased - a fact which seemed to militate against the common opinion that doctrinal discussions would prove dry and unacceptable to a popular audience. The lectures, which were prepared not without painstaking labor, suggested the production of a formal treatise on the subjects which had occupied all the available time-namely, Election and Reprobation, with special reference to the Evangelical Arminian theology. This was done, and a discussion of the doctrine of justification, in relation to that theology, was added. Read in its entirety...
The Recent White v. Ehrman Debate
As many of our readers are aware, Dr. James White had a well publicized debate (January 21, 2009) with Dr. Bart Ehrman on the issue of textual variants and the reliability of the New Testament (CD's and MP3's are now available with DVD to follow shortly). It was interesting to read Dr. White's goals in preparation for this debate and what he feels was accomplished. You can read of it here.